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December 2018
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Senior Spectrum Publications

Simply Smart Travel
by Jeff & Virginia Orenstein
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Exploring Europe By Train Customize A Eurail Pass For Economy and ... 

go by train and use the right rail pass
A typical smallertown station at Boppard, Germany. Credit: Jeff Orenstein, Simply Smart Travel

If you are planning a trip to Europe, the easiest and best way to see that fascinating continent is to go by train and use the right rail pass that you have customized for your trip. Our latest European exploration took us by train around Sweden, Denmark and Germany and it was delightful.

Traveling by train is a great way to get around and really see the countryside anywhere. But it is especially convenient and practical in Europe because its rail system is one of the finest and most complete in the world. It is no wonder that European trains are widely patronized by Europeans, and visitors alike, for business and pleasure.

European trains have convenient schedules, comfortable seats, wide windows and serve almost everywhere. They run far more often and to vastly more places than in North America. The best are stateoftheart, fast and smooth, capable of traveling at more than 200 miles per hour. Even local and secondary trains are usually modern, comfortable, swift and on time. With tracks scrupulouslymaintained for safety and comfort, trains are the Simply Smart way to see Europe.

European trains run so frequently between most city pairs that you can usually go where and when you want without much advance planning. If you miss your train on a busy main line, chances are another one will be along soon. Unless you are way off the beaten path, you can simply head for the station with your Eurail pass in hand when you want to travel. Then simply check the posted schedule for the time and track of the next train going toward your desired destination. When you arrive on the right platform, a train will usually arrive in less than an hour (sometimes much less) that will speed you to your destination. Find a seat, have your Eurail Pass ready for the conductor to check and enjoy the trip. It’s a nohassle experience without security lines, forfeiture of water bottles and other airport indignities and timewasters. Even if the train you want is one of the few premium trains that require advance seat reservations, they can be obtained in a few minutes at almost any railroad station or online with the free Eurail Rail Planner app.

go by train and use the right rail pass
Europeans regularly use trains for local and regional travel and often bring their bicycles. Credit: Jeff Orenstein, Simply Smart Travel

Onboard, European train seats are much bigger and have more legroom than commercial aircraft. Also, restrooms are plentiful and amenities such as bar or dining cars and vendors offering food and drink are common. There is also room to store luggage and no checked bag fees. You can even walk around without being told to get back to your seat.

Train travel is also scenic and lowstress. Looking through large windows, you can really see the countryside as you pass. It is a great opportunity to observe how people live as you relax in comfort while munching on a sandwich or sipping a glass of wine instead of dealing with traffic, foreignlanguage road signs, getting lost and hunting for a parking space if you drive.

Additionally, if you plan well and buy the right Eurail Pass for your needs, you will add both ease and economy to your trip. Your pass usually saves you money and gives you the freedom to take advantage of the flexible schedules. With it you also avoid change fees and the inconvenience of buying advance tickets for an individual trip or worrying about how to get a refund for the tickets you bought for specific trains.

A Eurail Pass is a payonceinadvance ticket that gives you passage on most trains across Europe. The socalled Global Eurail Pass covers 28 countries. The Select Pass is good for trains in two, three or four adjacent countries which you specify in advance and 27 onecountry passes are available too. Each pass is available for periods from a few days to months and for as many days of actual travel that you think will suit your needs.

European Rail Travel Tips

You can eat and drink at your seat on most trains. Save a piece of fruit or other snack from your hotel breakfast for your onboard eating and/or buy what you want at a grocery store or at the station to save on onboard prices and expand your choices.

Big city terminals
Big city terminals, such as this one in Copenhagen, are usually under cover and contain many shops and amenities. Credit: Jeff Orenstein, Simply Smart Travel

Travel second class.

The accommodations are not as commodious, but they are decent. The scenery is the same.

If you are willing to give up some daytime scenic views, sleeping in your seat on an overnight train saves you a hotel stay.

If you’re 27 or younger, you can save 20% with a Eurail Youth Pass. Children under 12 travel free!

If you really want to see Europe and avoid driving hassles and expenses, you should consider going by train with the exact Eurail Pass that meets your needs. It’s the way to go for Simply Smart Travelers.

Ginny O’s Tips For Dressing The Simply Smart Travel Way For Euro Train Travel:

Wear comfortable clothes that are appropriate for your desired activities at your next destination.

Over 50 Advantage Relaxing way to travel:

It is easy to take advantage of onboard amenities. And arrive in the center of your destination.

Mobility Level:

Low, with the exception of some rural stations without elevators.

When To Go:

Any time, Summer trains are often crowded with tourists.

Where To Stay:

Near the station. Hotels within walking distance of the station save cab fares and time. Most stations are conveniently located in the City Center.

Special Travel Interests:

European culture, art, cuisine and history.

Jeffrey Orenstein, Ph.D. and Virginia Orenstein are travel writers from Sarasota, Florida. Their Simply Smart Travel column appears in newspapers and magazines in eight states. Reach them at jorenstein@SimplySmartTravel.com